Environment: An old clue to the secret of longevity

Journal name:
Date published:
Published online

Epidemiologists are seeking to identify the lifestyle and environmental factors that make the Greek inhabitants of Ikaria, a small island in the Aegean Sea, one of the world's longest-lived populations (see go.nature.com/2nzec7y and P. Pietri et al. J. Am. Coll. Cardiol. 66, 18421843; 2015). Centenarians were common on the island even 400 years ago, when a local archbishop captured essential elements of their longevity.

In A Description of the Present State of Samos, Nicaria, Patmos, and Mount Athos (Pitt, 1678), Joseph Georgirenes remarks on the longevity of people in Nicaria (now known as Ikaria), attributing it to the air and water, community spirit, sparse diet and inherited disposition. He declared it “a great wonder, considering how hardily they live”.

He concludes: “Thus, you have an account of a small island, the poorest and yet the happiest of the whole Aegean Sea.”

Author information


  1. Athens Medical School, Athens, Greece.

    • Panagiota Pietri,
    • Theodore Papaioannou &
    • Christodoulos Stefanadis

Corresponding author

Correspondence to:

Author details

Additional data